Summary - Understanding Municipal Court
The Topeka Municipal Court is a court of limited jurisdiction and record which, through its judges and staff, adjudicates traffic infractions and misdemeanor offenses that are alleged to have occurred within the Topeka city limits. All meter parking citations are under the supervision of the City of Topeka Parking Division and are NOT processed in the Municipal Court. Judges, pursuant to applicable provisions of City Ordinance, various state laws and court rules, conduct all hearings - there are no jury trials in Municipal Court.
The main mission of the Court is to promptly and fairly adjudicate all cases filed and to enforce judgments rendered. Ancillary functions include supervising probationers, conducting alcohol and drug evaluations and drug and alcohol education programs, coordinating community service and house arrest activities, providing information to citizens about the municipal judicial process and collecting fines and fees.
The Court is under the direction of the Administrative Judge and the supervision of the Court Administrator and Clerk. Two full-time judges, including the Administrative Judge, preside over court proceedings. The support staff positions consist of a Deputy Court Administrator, one Senior Court Clerk, six Court Clerk II’s, three Court Clerk I’s, a Probation Administrator, two Probation Officers, one Office Assistant III, one Protective Services Officer II, three Protective Services Officer I’s, and an Office Specialist.
A person alleged to have committed a violation of City ordinance receives a citation or complaint which is filed with the Court by either an authorized law enforcement officer or the City Attorney. Persons charged are typically referred to by the Court as the “Accused” or the “Defendant.” All defendants are presumed innocent unless proven Guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by the Prosecution. Generally, defendant’s must answer to the charges filed by either acknowledging guilt and paying the citation in full, including any applicable fine, costs and fees via mail or in person or by personally appearing at the court within the timeframe allotted (14 days from the date of the citation) to set a court date to have the case adjudicated. Failure to pay any citation or complaint or appear to schedule a court date within the appropriate timeframe may result in an order from the Court seeking the defendant’s arrest on a bench warrant and may result in the suspension of driving privileges for the accused with the State of Kansas. Defendants who are subject to a bench warrant for failure to appear in Court have the right to post bond or bail to seek recall of the warrant and receive a new court date.
If a defendant cannot appear for a court setting, he or she is required to complete a Motion for Continuance form and submit it the Court for consideration at least 10 days prior to the court appearance date. Click here for a printable version of the Motion to Continue Hearing form. Persons requesting copies of court records must complete the Request for Records and submit it to the Court Clerk’s office - the records typically are ready for pickup within 72 hours (excluding weekends and recognized legal holidays) from the date of request submission. Click here for a printable version of a Records Request form.
The three most frequent types of court hearings or dockets, in their most basic forms, are: 1. Arraignments; 2. Trials; and 3. Sentencings.
1. Arraignment Dockets - these hearings are designed to apprise the defendant of his or her rights, provide a reading of the charges by the judge to the defendant and seek a plea from the defendant. A plea is the defendant’s answer to the charges. Generally, the pleas available to a defendant are: Not Guilty - this plea is entered to inform the court that the defendant disagrees with the charges and desires to have a trial in front of a judge. Defendant’s entering a Not Guilty plea will be set for trial and the Defendant must appear for trial. Guilty plea - this plea constitutes an admission by the defendant of the charges and material facts alleged by the Prosecution. If a Guilty plea is entered, then the judge will enter a finding of guilt and impose sentence. No Contest plea - this plea differs from the Guilty plea because the defendant is not admitting to any charges or supporting facts - the defendant simply does “not contest” the charge(s). If this plea is entered the judge will make a finding of guilt and impose sentence.
2. Trials - Every accused person has the right to a trial, but there are no jury trials in Municipal Court. All trials are presented to a judge. Trial settings are fact gathering hearings in front a judge following established legal procedures wherein the prosecution attempts to prove its case against the defendant and the defendant is afforded his/her constitutional rights to present evidence, to cross examine witnesses and confront accusers. Defendants have the right not to testify at trial and the right not to make any incriminating statements should they choose to testify at trial. Only defendants or licensed attorneys representing defendants can make arguments and presentations at trial. The judge cannot act as the legal advisor for defendants and defendants, if they choose to present a defense, are required to present their cases within the confines of the law, court rules and criminal procedure. The prosecution and the defendant can present evidence, including witness testimony, but the burden of proof - beyond a reasonable doubt - is the prosecutor’s obligation to meet. The judge will review all of the evidence presented and compare it to the applicable law(s) to reach a decision. Typically, the judgment of the court is pronounced on the day of trial, but in some rare instances the judge may take matters under advisement for determination at a later date. Discovery Information Sheet | Discovery Request Form
Both the Defendant and the Prosecutor have the right to request subpoenas from the Court seeking to have witnesses compelled to appear for and present testimony during trial. Click here for a printable version of the Request for Subpoena form. Subpoena requests must be fully completed and submitted to the Court no less than fourteen (14) days before trial. Defendants have the right to review prosecution evidence prior to trial - this right is called “Discovery”. Defendants desiring discovery must submit a written request to the City Attorney’s Office within ten (10) days before the date of your trial. The City Attorney, Prosecution Division, is located at City Hall, 215 SE 7th, 2nd Fl., Topeka, Kansas 66603.
3. Persons found guilty by plea or at trial must be sentenced. Sentencings can occur on the date of arraignment, the date of trial or they may be scheduled for a future setting by the judge. At sentencing, the prosecution and the defendant have the opportunity to address the judge to request the level of punishment that he or she thinks should be imposed. The judge may consider the nature of the offense, past offenses, etc. and rehabilitative options that he or she believes are warranted in the matter as part of the sentence imposed. Sentences can include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following: fines, fees, costs, incarceration, house arrest, restitution, and probation.
Every accused person has the right to be represented by an attorney in the Topeka Municipal Court. Defendant’s also have the right to represent themselves without an attorney, but use of a trained, legal, professional to represent accused persons cannot be underestimated and is strongly encouraged by the Court. In certain cases involving a potential jail sentence, a waiver of counsel form must be executed before a defendant can represent him or herself. Court appointed attorneys are NOT an automatic right for all accused persons facing charges in Municipal Court. Defendants seeking a court appointed attorney or public defender must meet certain legal conditions and financial guidelines established under law and by the Court before a public defender can be appointed. Only a judge can make the determination of whether an accused is to receive a court appointed attorney. Click here for a printable version of the Court Appointed Attorney Affidavit.
Each defendant adjudged guilty has the right to appeal his/her conviction to Shawnee County District Court. Appeals must be filed within fourteen (14) days after sentencing in Municipal Court. If the 14th day ends on a Saturday, Sunday, or a day the district court clerk’s office is not legally accessible, then the time period extends until the close of business the next day that is not a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday. Moreover, the defendant has the right to be represented by an attorney on appeal, including the right to utilize the same attorney appointed by the Municipal Court judge in the original action.
Defendants also have the right to seek expungement of arrest and/or certain conviction records. Generally, an expungement is the process by which records of criminal arrest or conviction are destroyed or sealed after an expiration of time. For additional information concerning applications for expungement, please contact the Municipal Court Clerks Office.